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Unnatural Voices

Extreme Narration in Modern and Contemporary Fiction

Brian Richardson

“A landmark in narrative analysis and in the study of modern and postmodern fiction generally” —Modern Fiction Studies

“[A]ccessible to undergraduate students . . . . what Unnatural Voices ultimately argues for . . . is not a different poetics, but an additional one, an anti-mimetic poetics that supplements existing mimetic theories. landmark in narrative analysis and in the study of modern and postmodern fiction generally” —The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association

“Brian Richardson has written a stimulating, insightful, and thoroughly convincing book. Unlike critics who rely on well-known works of secure literary stature in presenting their theories, Richardson breaks out of that circle by providing a wealth of fresh and challenging literary touchstones and by working inductively rather than deductively. He recognizes that the unusual and aberrant examples provided by postmodern and postcolonial literature are just as valuable for study as canonical narratives and merit just as much theoretical consideration.” —William Nelles, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Brian Richardson presents a study that explores in depth one of the most significant aspects of late modernist, avant-garde, and postmodern narrative. Unnatural Voices analyzes in depth the creation, fragmentation, and reconstitution of experimental narrative voices that transcend familiar first- and third-person perspectives. Going beyond standard theories that are based in rhetoric or linguistics, this book focuses on what innovative authors actually do with narration.

Richardson identifies the wide range of unusual narrators, acts of narration, and dramas with the identity of the speakers in late modern, avant-garde, and postmodern texts that have not previously been discussed in a sustained manner from a theoretical perspective. He draws attention to the more unusual practices of Conrad, Joyce, and Woolf as well as the work of later authors like Beckett and recent postmodernists. Unnatural Voices chronicles the transformation of the narrator figure and the function of narration over the course of the twentieth century and provides chapters on understudied modes such as second-person narration, “we” narration, and multiperson narration. It explores a number of distinctively postmodern strategies, such as unidentified interlocutors, erased events, the collapse of one voice into another, and the varieties of postmodern unreliability. It offers a new view of the relations between author, implied author, narrator, and audience and, more significantly, of the “unnatural” aspects of fictional narration. Finally, it offers a new model of narrative that can embrace the many non- and anti-realist practices discussed throughout the book.

Brian Richardson is associate professor of English at the University of Maryland.

Nov 2006
Literary Criticism/General
166 pp. 6x9

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Theory and Interpretation of Narrative

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